Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

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Posted by shannonclark on March 25, 2003

Transit Users Called Creeps & Weirdos : Vancouver Indymedia

Sad. If I had ever even briefly considered buying a GM car, this would put a stop to that thought.

I’m a very big supporter of public transit – indeed I really should not own a car at all.

And, I find the thought implied by this ad that public transit riders are “creeps and weirdos” not just insulting but also likely more than a bit racist (or at least elitist/classist)

I will freely confess that I am an urban creature – I believe that you should live someplace where you can get your basic needs ON FOOT, where you have access to public spaces, and where a car is optional, not required. All of which are traits of a “good” city landscape in my view, though certainly many developers disagree with me – seemingly thinking that people want to live isolated from their neighbors and away from neighborhood businesses and resources – suburbs in the city basically.

Public Transit plays a critical and vital role in the urban landscape. More than just getting people from one point to another, it serves to bring people together and humanize the city. Rather than being isolated in our steel (well now mostly plastic) cages, public transit means that you have to BE with others, and that everyone is equal. It is also a space for random conversations, meetings, encounters – all vital to being a part of a city.

With repetition, you begin to see the same people, people who share a route in common with you, and over time this humanizes the vastness of the urban environment.

In a similar manner, walking to shopping and local resources is another means whereby the “village” can develop in the midst of the city.

In the part of Chicago where I live, I know a lot of my neighbors and fellow residents of the city. We see each other in the shops and cafes, we talk to each other while sitting on the sidewalk on a summer’s day watching the world go by. I know my local beat cop, indeed have eaten dinner with him and other mutual friends.

This is what makes the urban environment so manificent and wonderful. Beyond the many casual interactions and friendships, it is the diversity of those connections. My friends are of all races, all ages, all genders, all sexualities. Some are out of work cabdrivers, some are investment bankers. We all share a common urban environment.

Were I to be a “car” person, I would have rarely, if ever, met these friends. Instead of walking home each evening (when I leave the office at a reasonable time), I would have been driving from one parking lot to another – avoiding meeting anyone.

Indeed, in the summertime especially, it is a very rare evening that on my one mile walk home that I do not encounter at least one (and usually many more than that) friend or group of friends. Often, we end up at least talking, and not uncommonly eating dinner or at least sitting at a local cafe and catching up, talking about our lives, the weather, the news of the day.

When I have a family, I plan on raising my children in a city, I want them to grow up in a highly diverse environment. Rather than isolating them in our own private large yard, I want them to grow up celebrating the many parks and public grounds of the city. As the grow up, I want them to grow comfortable and independant in navigating the city (on foot, on bike, on public transit), I want them exposed to diversity.

Diverse foods, diverse races and religions, diversity of economic status.

Whether when the time comes I am rich and successful, or poor and successful (I plan on being successful as I count it, whether that means rich or not is yet to be determined), I want my future children to grow up judging people on the basis of who they are and how they interact, rather than how much (or how little) they may have finacially at the moment.

Last night, I had a nice conversation and interaction with a man selling Streetwise (Chicago’s homeless newspaper, so he is probably homeless) – we were both buying our dinner from the same chinese fast food joint. He asked, politely, if I would like to buy one of his newspapers. I declined (because I cannot afford it at the moment), but we talked instead about the food. Importantly, he smiled as we talked, we communicated briefly, but that’s the essense of the city – diverse people can engage each other in friendly conversation around shared common experiences.

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